A group of 20 state attorneys general, led by NY AG Letitia James, want the Biden government to shut down commercial sales from the world’s largest ammunition factory. In a letter to written to Stefanie Feldman, the director of the president’s shiny new “White House Office of Gun Violence Prevention,” Ms. James urged the administration to stop allowing rounds produced at the Army’s largest production facility to be sold on the commercial market. But is this really about saving lives, or is it just a play to disarm the people?
Ammunition Isn’t the Problem
Ms. James seemed to blame the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant for the numerous mass shootings that have taken place recently – or, at the very least, she relied on the fact that many of the rounds used in such crimes had been manufactured at Lake City to argue commercial production should be halted.
Attacking gun and ammunition manufacturers for what a small fraction of end users do with the products is neither logical nor ethical. Could a publisher be to blame if someone commits murder by beating another over the head with a hardcover? Of course not. Is it a tool company’s fault if someone gets stabbed to death with a screwdriver? Of course not. How then are firearm and ammunition manufacturers to blame for the actions of a tiny fraction of end users? The vast majority of guns and bullets in America never kill another human.
Ms. James wrote her letter “on behalf of the States of New York, Arizona, California, Connecticut, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Hawai’i, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington,” asking the Biden administration to stop the flow of millions of rounds of ammunition to the civilian market. But is this really about saving lives – or working around the Second Amendment to price the average American out of buying ammunition?
The Market Will Have Its Way
No matter how noble or nefarious Ms. James’ motives may be, it’s estimated by some experts that the supply chain issue caused by shutting off the flow of commercial offerings from the Lake City Army Ammunition Plant would double prices for civilian shooters. Lake City is the largest small arms manufacturer in the entire world, not just the nation, and taking that off the commercial market would be devastating.
But it wouldn’t be the end. As of November of last year, there were 663 businesses manufacturing guns and ammunition in America – an increase of 1.2% from 2022. It would take time, but eventually new and other existing facilities would fill the gap – assuming, of course, that the Biden administration doesn’t find some way to prevent it.
Still, it would make commercial ammo both difficult to find and expensive to buy, creating a problem for those hoping to exercise their Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. But it isn’t just the civilian shooter who suffers if the government prevents Lake City or any other Army-owned plant from selling commercially.
It’s the Nature of the Beast
As The New York Times explained in a November 2023 article that ties the facility to many of the mass shootings across the US: “When the military needs ammunition, the contractor is required to make it, but it is otherwise free to keep production lines humming with commercial operations.” A little farther in, the Times admits that, while the American taxpayers have covered about $860 million over the last two decades to “improve and repair” the plant, the contractor is still left to cover some costs. “Under the current arrangement, the contractor has covered at least $10 million a year in improvements – an amount that can grow depending on production levels.” And that says nothing of the general operating costs which include, among other things, labor and raw materials. Where is that money supposed to come from?
It’s important to note that the government requires Lake City to maintain a 1.6 billion round per year capability. The plant produces about four million rounds per day, for a total of about 1.46 billion a year – but, according to a November 2023 report by Bloomberg, roughly half of that goes to the military, with the rest being sold commercially. Why, then, doesn’t it all go to the military? Because that level of production isn’t currently needed – but it might be, at some point. Hence the required capacity.
But the only way to ensure that, at any given point, the facility can produce 1.6 billion rounds a year is to maintain the equipment and workforce to sustain such a production goal. Workers must be paid, and employees need to be doing something to earn their wages. And, as anyone with any industrial experience can attest, machines that don’t run for long periods of time may or may not function correctly when finally turned back on.
Why does Lake the City Army Ammunition Plant make so many rounds for the civilian market? Because it can’t continue to function as legally required otherwise.
Have Your Cake and Eat It, Too
In her letter, AG James complains that “the bullets used in this violence were subsidized by American taxpayers, as the federal government has apparently invested more than $860 million to improve production.” She isn’t wrong. Tax dollars have, in fact, been spent on this facility. On the other hand, the military – an operation known by all to be tax funded – does get a cut of the commercial profits. Under the Pentagon’s agreement with Winchester, the military gets a small cut of the revenue, but even those few pennies per bullet accounts for about $30 million a year. Sure, $300 million or so in a decade doesn’t reimburse the taxpayers fully – but it’s a start.
That a leftist like Letitia James is concerned about forcing Americans to pay for this, however, is ironic at best – and downright dishonest at worst. In December of 2021, Ms. James called in a press release for the government to fund abortion nationwide. While the US Supreme Court considered Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, James proposed “a fund that will cover the costs for women living in these states to travel to New York, as well as cover accommodations and costs of an abortion.” AG James has long supported both the right to have an abortion and the idea that the government should pay for it. Note the language: When it’s abortion care, the “state” has an obligation. When it’s subsidized ammo production, it’s the “American taxpayers” who were forced to foot the bill. To put it bluntly, the state – whether we’re talking about an individual state or the nation itself – does not have its own money. Whatever funds any level of government has, it was taken from the people.
Ms. James, like many on the left, wants the government to have enough guns and ammunition to run the nation (or, if some had their way, the world), but they don’t want civilians buying any of it. Well, there’s only one way for them to have their cake and eat it, too. We the people are going to have to buy all that ammo with our tax dollars – and give it to the government rather than keeping any for ourselves. Anything less, and the plant simply can’t produce.